Baroness Manzila Uddin
Baroness Manzila Uddin was the youngest and first Muslim woman to be appointed to the House of Lords. Her years as a community activist and work in advancing disability and women rights were a contribution to her invitation to the House. She is a patron of a number of organisations and is chair of the National Commission on Muslim Women.
“I have always felt a deep sense of pride and connection to our collective legacy and presence in British history. From the time I had moved to East London and since my first encounters with the many pioneering women, working in the area, I have wanted to document their stories and highlight their work. Especially the women that were managing multiple demands as well as adversities, inside their home and outside of their work, not least coping with the ongoing persistent impact of institutional racism.
For better part of the 80’s, I was leading on a number of women’s organisation. During that period, we would often get asked about our individual migrant experiences. It is hard to recall anything positive being written either on individual women or the community itself more generally. These writings and research papers or books were often laden with orientalist cultural prejudice based on long held misconceptions.
Disappointingly, such perspectives tended to omit the ordinary experiences of women and their rich cultural heritage and experiences. Instead, succumbing to the usual lazy stereotypes which immersed in regressive generalisations of ‘Asian/Muslim’ women.
So this projects has been in the making in our hearts for decades. The decision to forge ahead arises out of significant informal and ongoing discussions with leading Muslim women as well as our Commissioners, on how we should redress the current binary on Muslim women. We believe that the dismal statistics in employment, education and accredited attitudes to citizenship, published in various reports, do not reflect the entire truth.
Indeed, British Muslims contribute £31 billion to the economy and there are multitudes of talented and professional men and women contributing to the making of a multi-cultural and multi-faith Britain – compelling facts which remain absent from the mainstream references.
I am therefore honoured to be part of this dynamic team, which is emphasising the achievements of British Muslim women. I believe there is a remarkable piece of a puzzle missing in the public discourse on Muslim women. This is the most appropriate time to record our rich history, culture, legacy as a gift to the next generation.
Achieving social change means shifting the public will. We want to draw attention and create awareness of the many talented individuals who are living and working, in all parts of our country. This has resonated deeply with the Commissioners when writing the blueprint for this project.
We wish to go beyond activating a campaign, collating the exhibition and recording women’s testimonials. It is our intention, to demonstrate that British Muslim women have ordinary lives, but also are undertaking some extraordinary roles, in every spheres of our society alongside all other women in our society.
This is not a new approach and we acknowledge the many outstanding women in public office.
I believe the campaign will bolster our positions visibly and aid in establishing the fact that, Muslim women are not spectators to the prevailing wind of societal changes and reassert their presence and remarkable contributions throughout our recent history.
Ownership of this project lie with the women who have so willingly joined us. I am thankful to each of them. I am indebted to our outstanding team, Commissioners, ever increasing numbers of champions and supporters.
It has been a privilege to have shared the commencement of this journey with so many truly magnificent women and I am humbled by their courage, inner strength, determination, and most importantly I feel emboldened by their resilience.
Each and every woman embodies the very strengths and characteristics of our mothers and grandmothers. I am confident that these examples will not only be a testament to their remarkable strength but will also be a legacy for the emerging and future leaders growing up in Britain and elsewhere.
This is our voice.”